Close quarters

Canadian Olympic bobsledder Justin Kripps speaks to students in the undersized Summerland Secondary School gym in 2018.

Construction of a long-awaited new gymnasium at Summerland Secondary School has been postponed in a bid to maintain a place for students to play.

The board of the Okanagan Skaha School District announced Thursday it has decided against rebuilding over the existing facility, which would have left the school without a gym for approximately one year during construction. Instead, the district now intends to leave the old gym standing while it builds a new one.

“Upon review of the project, the board felt strongly that a prolonged construction timeline that could potentially impact a second school year would not be appropriate for our students, the school or the community of Summerland,” said chairman James Palanio in a press release Thursday.

“As we have returned to more regular in-class instruction and athletic activities this fall, we want to ensure our students’ learning and physical activity is supported through a seamless transition back to school both this year and next.”

But that also requires going back to the drawing board.

The district had permission from the B.C. Education Ministry to go ahead with the replacement project as soon as this fall but will now have to re-apply to get clearance for a new plan, leaving its timeline in limbo.

It’s unlikely the project would have proceeded this fall anyway due to delays associated with COVID-19 and other challenges, the press release added.

The $10.5-million project is being funded with the proceeds from last year’s sale of the former McNicoll Park Middle School in Penticton.

Replacement of the undersized gym, which is too small for regulation basketball and volleyball courts, had been at or near the top of the district’s capital wish-list for 20 years.